Medill survey finds high awareness of Google Glass among Baby Boomers; willingness to use

By SB Anderson

Awareness of Google Glass — and willingness to use it and devices like it — is surprisingly high among a group that you’d think would not have heard much about a product that isn’t yet available beyond of a small pack of technologists:  Baby Boomers.

Google Glass (SOURCE: Google)

In a Medill School of Journalism online survey of 1,210 mobile device users aged 45-59, just over half  — 54% — said they had heard of Google Glass, a wearable device that lets you see text and images in a small screen above your eye; hear audio; execute commands by voice; and navigate by touching a bar along the side. The device is only available to a few thousand testers right now.

Two out of three said they would or might be willing to use a product like Google Glass in their travels. Men were a bit more likely than women to have heard of Google Glass and to say they’d definitely use it.

Price and distraction were cited as the main reasons respondents would not use Glass — 2 in 3 for distraction, 1 in 3 for price. Men were more concerned about looking silly than women. Looking “dweeby,” “dorky,” “goofy” and “silly” were declared by some to be the negatives.

About 1 in 4 of those who wouldn’t use a Google Glass-like product were concerned about their privacy while using the device. Privacy is a significant issue for Google Glass because it can take video and still photos of someone without them knowing, but the privacy concerns tend to skew less toward the user than those around the user.

The survey, which on several levels demonstrated that members of this cohort of Baby Boomers are far from technological luddites, was part of the just-concluded Spring 2013 Medill Innovation Project. During the 11-week project,  masters students studying magazine and interactive undertook extensive market and consumer research;  developed and produced a prototype of a personal, passion-focused interactive travel product called Sojourn Chicago; and assembled a complete business plan.

The graduate students after early research settled on building a product that essentially was for their moms. Our online survey showed them surprisingly how many of their moms (and dads) were interested in and comfortable with devices beyond their phone — and in the case of Glass, one that wasn’t even available yet. The online survey, taken in mid-May as the first batch of testers had received the Google Glass devices and mainstream media attention was developing,

Microsoft Kinect

While planned in its early incarnations as a self-guided $4.99 interactive tour for 50-something smartphone users, Sojourn Chicago over time would expand to include a Google Glass application, as well as a version that would be tied to a Microsoft Kinect (left) hand-motion and sound-activated display device and be used back at home to relive the tour experience and share with others in the room the photos and videos taken during the tour.

About the survey
Our online survey has a margin of error of 2.8% for the full sample; data for smaller sub-groups, such as only men or women, have a higher margin of error, depending on the number of respondents. Those who responded to the 30-question survey had to be aged 45-59; have gone on at least one leisure vacation trip in the past year; and taken a mobile device with them. Respondents were sought online via a survey service provided by Survey Monkey.

The survey showed signifiant interest in a a Kinect-like experience. Nearly 2 in 3 said they’d be interested in a device that would let them “through voice command and hand gestures, experience the places in a three- dimensional way.” A slight majority was willing to pay up to $199 for such a device, but 3 in 10 said they would not pay anything.

While 1 in 3 said they wouldn’t pay anything for Google Glass, about 2 in 5 said they’d pay up to $100, and about 1 in 5 up to $200. The extremely early adopters who were chosen to get the first editions of Google Glass each paid $1,500, although that price is clearly going to drop dramatically before Glass becomes broadly available to consumers.

The survey also revealed that this age cohort of smartphone-using Baby Boomers is not afraid of technology — they carry multiple devices when traveling — and consider themselves to be somewhat early adopters of new technology within their friends and family circles. A percentage of them are also willing to pay for content, though apparently not at the higher price points that typically are sought.

One of the Spring 2013 innovation team’s objectives was to begin exploring what we call “anticipatory journalism” and to try and determine the role of journalism in a new world in which technology and tools are developing that intimately understand who you are, what your habits are, where you are and where you are going and can anticipate your content needs.

These exciting new tools and devices, such as Google Glass, let information flow directly and seamlessly to you as you go about your day.  “Anticipatory journalism” seeks to harness that new awareness platform and seamlessly deliver quality, real-time-relevant content, directly to smartphone headphones, or your car radio — or to your Google Glass device — based on where you are, what you’re doing and where you’re heading.

Sojourn Chicago App

Sojourn Chicago’s app prototype

Publishers need to quickly begin figuring out where their journalism — and advertising content — can integrate and intersect with the experience of using these new devices and tools as the digital world becomes more and more one in which information and content streams seamlessly ad directly to you instead of you having to actively got out and seek it via search, visiting web sites, etc.

Another class objective was to explore “hyper-passions” instead of just “hyper-local” for a geographic content products. The Sojourn Chicago product’s tours are built around passions, such as art, architecture, sports, food, coffee, craft beer, etc. and are focused on neighborhoods and locations that provide a rich experience around those hyper-passions.

Paid content is a major concern for publishers. The Sojourn survey found a willingness among a  number of consumers to pay for content-focused apps and for devices such as Kinect and Google Glass.

The survey also provided insights into the types of content this cohort is willing to pay for, the types of functionality most used on smart phones while travelling, and the types of content typically used and preferred.

    • Nearly 2 in 5 said they were the first buyers or users of software, technology or gadgets in their circles of family and friends. But, those purchases don’t happen fast: only 1 in 4 bought within six months, and 1 in 2 within a year or less. Price was a decider: Nearly 2 in 5 said they wait for the price to drop first.
    • Just over a majority of respondents were iPhone users; Android was mentioned by 42%. Almost half — 47% — were tablet users (iPad over others nearly 3-1). About 7% said they bring a laptop when travelling; slightly fewer carry along a Kindle or Nook.
    • About 2 in 5 had paid at least paid something for a travel app or product in the last year. Far from a majority, but a sizable number.
    • While 44% of respondents said they would pay nothing for a Sojourn Chicago-like personal tour app, 49% said they’d pay up to $5 and 7% said they’d pay more than that. The business team, based on those results and a competitive analysis, settled on $4.99 for tour for Sojourn Chicago.
    • Text is the medium of choice for content on mobile devices while travelling, with 83% saying they used it at least sometimes. About half used audio at least sometimes, and 40% video. Text, by far, was the most popular way to get content — 85% made it the top choice when asked to rank text, audio or video. Video was the second most-popular No. 1 choice by a slim margin, followed by audio.
    • A significant number of respondents were social networkers. Just over half said they use their mobile devices to check social networks when travelling. They were content creators and sharers as well: 3 in 5 said they upload photos during a trip while 1 in 5 did the same with video.
    • GPS functionality is important — and well-used — on mobile devices. Just over 50% said they often or always use location-based services while another 30% said they do at least sometimes.

Scott B. Anderson is an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School, focusing on interactive publishing. He co-directed the Spring 2013 Innovation Project along with Assistant Prof. Marcel Pacatte. Special thanks to Bob LeBailly for helping the project team with creating, fielding and analyzing the survey. Contact us.